College Students And Mental Health Challenges: Tips For Parents


Attending college is an exciting time for your child is full of new experiences. These adventures include finding new friends and exploring what it is like to be an adult.

However, college is also a time of stress, turmoil, and separation.

Stress from homesickness and the new pressures of college work, there is mounting evidence that our college students are not well.

This College Student Study is Alarming

Recently the Healthy Minds Network conducted a survey study during the 2016-17 school year.

They then released the results, and the statistics they were alarming.

The study found that in the previous twelve-month period, 24% of college students reported having increased levels of anxiety.

Also, the organization found that 31% of college students surveyed reported being depressed.

And if those statistics are not alarming enough, they also found that 11% reported having suicidal thoughts.

 Our College Students Are Not Okay

The study did not stop with surveying the college population. They also conducted screenings to examine the percentage of college students who were experiencing mental health issues.

The screenings for depression and anxiety confirmed the survey results.

An even more alarming result occurred when the Healthy Minds Network used The Flourishing Scale to test college students.

This tool is used to measure the respondent’s self-perceived success in essential areas like self-esteem, optimism, and purpose.

They found that only 42% of those examined felt positive about their lives and life experiences.

This means that a whopping 58% do not feel good about the way their lives are going or their belief that it will improve.

These results show that our college population is not doing well. They are not okay.

What Can Parents Do to Help Their Child Cope With College?

As a parent, the statistics may have you sitting up and wondering about your own child.

Will he or she so become overwhelmed by the college experience? Also, will they become mentally ill because of the pressures they are facing or will face?

Most importantly of all, will your child die by suicide due to feeling so hopeless that they can see no other way out?

These are alarming things to need to consider.

However, there are ways you can get involved and give your child the college experience they deserve.

Talk to Your Child About the College Experience

Sitting your young adult down and discussing the stresses they will or already are experiencing is the number one defense you have for your child.

Talk about the pressures they will face on campus. These include partying, drinking and sex.

Listening as much as you talk is essential. Allow your child to talk about what they fear about going to live on campus.

Don’t listen in a judgmental fashion, but with compassion and understanding even if you don’t agree with what is said.

You Can Have Peace of Mind About Your College Student

As promised, we are going to explore together ways that you can help your student succeed in their college career. These tips will also give you increased peace of mind as you send your child off into the world alone.


Help Your Child Explore the Colleges Your Child Chooses

When choosing the college, your youth will be attending there is more to consider than its name.

Sit down with your child and look at college pamphlets. These will give you a good idea of which institution is the right fit.

You can also arrange to take an on-campus visit where you can sit down with a college counselor and address your concerns.

 Explore the Instructor/Student Ratio of the College

An important and not to be overlooked item is the size of the college.

What is the size of the instructor/student ratio?

The smaller the number of students each instructor has in their classrooms, the more one-on-one time they can spend with each one.

Also, having a better instructor/student ratio means they will see your child is having difficulties.

Over-worked instructors teaching huge classes of students will not see when a student begins to struggle.

The effect is that students who have begun to feel anxious, depressed or suicidal will slip through the cracks.

This can have tragic results.

Help Your Child Explore the Student Life on Campus

When looking at a potential college, keep in mind your student’s temperament and social needs.

Look to see if the college you are examining is diverse ethnically, culturally and racially.

Does the campus have ways for your student to socialize comfortably with others who feel the same as they do?

If your student is a member of a minority, does the college have an open and inclusive atmosphere?

Are their groups to accommodate your child’s sexual orientation?

Also, are there well-established protocols and rules in place on campus to address stigma and bigotry?

This information is critical to maintain your student’s peace of mind and keep their stress level down.

 Help Your Child Explore Opportunities for Socialization on College Campus

One thing kids find to be a problem when they go off to college is loneliness.

Your child will experience loneliness until they have established new friendships.

Choosing a college where his or her high school friends are going can be a huge help.

Also, look at the attitude of the college in respects to how students connect and socialize.

Are the primary ways for your child to gain new friends to become a member of a fraternity or sorority?

Joining such groups can be extremely difficult and add even more stress to your already stressed-out youth.

What are the college’s policies toward student drinking and off-campus partying?

Encourage your child to talk to you about partying. If you don’t discuss it with them, someone you don’t wish to will.

 Make a Plan with Your Child How to Act Should A Crisis Occur

 Having an open and honest discussion to focus on a clear plan to successfully managing the challenges they will find in college is vital.

This plan of action will show your college student what to do should they find themselves feeling bad.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) your plan should include the following:


An agreed list of contact numbers. Include the emergency numbers for the counseling and police services available on campus.

Make sure before they leave they know the numbers to call if your child or someone they know becomes suicidal.

You should be the first person they call, but if the situation is too urgent, they can call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

The number will connect them to professionals on the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Have a Clear Understanding of Supports Offered on Campus. These include medical assistance, tutoring options, and mental health services.

 Understand Financial Policies.  Does the college have policies covering a leave of absences should your child become ill?

How do these policies affect both you and your child financially?

Will there be penalties for him/her needing to drop out during a semester?

Also, will money be required to be repaid from a student loan package before your child can return to campus?

Financial considerations are essential.

If your child feels they cannot take a leave from their academic courses, they may neglect their physical or mental health.

No parent wants their child to choose money over their quality of life.

 Know the Schools Disclosure Policies. Find out what your student’s college will tell you concerning the health of your child.

Because most college students are eighteen years old or above, they are considered to be adults.

This means their trips to medical services are kept confidential by law.

Knowing who to call if you feel concerned about your child before a problem arises is vital to your peace of mind.

Remember. Currently, college students are covered by their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26.

However, this could change at any time.

 Remind Your Child, It’s Okay to Ask for Help. Explain to your child that is not a weakness to ask for help.

Should they find themselves facing feeling overwhelming anxiety, let them know who to reach out to on their campus.

Let Your College Kid  Know You Are Always Available

There are many things that all children enjoy hearing from their parents.

However, college students need to listen to them even more.

Below are some statements your child will need to hear from you as they go off on their grand college adventure.

The following statements are true about how I feel about you.


love you, and nothing will ever make me not love you.

will always be proud of you.

 trust your judgment.

believe in you, that will never change.

will not judge you, you can always talk to me.

support your independence, and I want to help you find your way.

 There is a Comprehensive Guide to Help You Plan to Choose the Right College for Your Child  

For help knowing how to help your college student endure the stresses of college check out this comprehensive guide for parents published by Transition Year.

In this remarkable document, you’ll find tips on what to watch for regarding the health of your child.

It also includes checklists to help you choose a healthy campus.

The world is a big place, but with planning your child can have a big head start in conquering it.

By providing your college student with accurate information, significant resources your child will thrive and perform well as a college student.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of PatientNextDoor. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and PatientNextDoor does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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